What to buy:
AKABANGA!!! It sounds like a war cry ... or perhaps a bellow of pain, as akabanga is the Rwandan condiment of choice, a chilli oil derivative that's hot enough to cauterise the tastebuds of unsuspecting diners!
You'll come across akabanga in all Rwandan restaurants, where it appears along with the salt and pepper in little plastic bottles that would look more at home in a pharmacy (think of the packaging for eye drops).
In fact, akabanga is a welcome and much needed spicy counterpoint to the usual blandness of Rwandan food, and I got quite fond of it. Best applied drop by drop - remember that you can always add more, but can't subtract it!
Akabanga makes an ideal gift for people who like their food spicy, and because the bottles are so tiny, they take up virtually no space. Just make sure you pack them securely in a plastic bag in case of spillage - this is not an item I'd like to come into contact with my clothing!
What to buy:
As you might imagine, gorillas feature large in the local crafts on sale throughout Rwanda, and I fell in love with these little chaps. I first bought a mother with a baby on her back, and then we were given the rest as a gift, so we ended up with a proper family group. I can't recall exactly what we paid, but I do know that they're not particularly expensive: the larger figures were certainly less than USD10.
They are made from a very light wood - not much heavier than balsa - which makes them ideal if you're struggling with a weight allowance. The wood is naturally pale, and the craftsmen use shoe polish to blacken the surface.
However, because they're not made of a hard wood, they are easy to damage, so make sure that you pack them carefully - this is what dirty laundry is for! :)
One of our favourite things to do wherever we visit is to take a trip to the local supermarket. Not only does it provide a fascinating insight into the lives (and cost of living) of people who live locally, but also a splendid source of edible souvenirs to bring home for ourselves, friends and colleagues.
Nukamatt is a Kenyan chain of supermarkets that is rapidy expanding into the Great Lakes region, and I suspect that this is one of the best supermarkets in Rwanda. It is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and certainly well supported by Kigali's expat community, who come here for a range of imported food, drink and other goods. However, it was the local produce that we were particularly interested in.
You could probably buy most things that you needed here - for a price - which makes it an excellent stopping off point before you head into the more rural areas (especially if you're planning to camp or self cater) or a good place to pick up things you forgot to pack.
What to buy: Top of our list were bottles of akabanga (the cauterising local condiment of choice) which look dangerously like small plastic bottles of yellow eye drops. We also bought large quantities of Rwandan tea and coffee, and a selection of local beers.
I liked the Simba Supermarket because it is a Rwandan company and sells a lot of locally produced fresh foods. Their butchery was all locally produced meats and they sold several varieties of Rwandan cheese. They have 2 stone lions in front and you will discover inside they are a hyper-market with just about everything including an ATM that sometime works. They offer everything from a fresh bakery, butchery, cheeses, produce, housewares, wine/spirits, cleaners, sweets, sauces and tinned food. They also have a large electrical/appliance area, some furniture and a few clothes. They also have a café for a meal or take-away pizza and a cold drink. The staff are friendly and you can find just about anything you could possibly need during your stay in Kigali. In fact their shelves reach almost to the ceiling and are always full. In addition to local products they have lots of imported brands, foods and of course wines. In fact they have the best wine selection of any store in Rwanda.
This is a great option for budget travellers and it is located across the road from the Nakumatt Supermarket and 2 blocks away from the Centre du Frais Alimentation Generale (another supermarket).
They do have toilets, but you have to pay of course.
What to buy:
* Local cheeses
* Fresh local meat
* Bakery goods
* Washing powder for clothes
* Plastic goods
Nakumatt is the only 24-hour grocery store in Rwanda. Part of a large Kenya based chain, it offers just about everything. It’s actually a department store offering everything from stationery, appliances, electronics, bedding, camping equipment and household plastics. Did I mention it sells food? Oh, yes it does.
What to buy:
They have a German Butchery. Let’s start there. Cooked and raw German delights for any carnivore. Next to it is the fresh bakery. On the other side is the wine co-located with the cheese & dairy products. Too right. Aisles of spices, mixes, tinned items, snacks, cakes, vegetables, fruit and pasta. They do offer some expensive Kenyan cheeses alongside cheaper (but still great quality) Rwandan produce. There is another grocery store just 75 meters away with almost the same range, but it’s not 24 hours.
So if you have late-night cravings for food or some more cold beer – get down to Nakumatt!
What to pay:
The only bad thing I have to say is that their cheeses were very expensive (very !) and mostly from Kenya. You can find cheaper quality cheese at other supermarkets in Kigali.
What to buy: The sounds of Rwanda and Uganda will stay with you, and one of the sounds is the music, the songs sung or played on traditional instruments. One member of our travel group purchased one of the large, beautiful cow skin-covered drums at one of our first roadside shopping stops. She tugged the drum up and down hotel stairs, maneuveured the drum on and off our small bus, and carted it to the airport in a new piece of cheap luggage especially purchased to fit her new prized possession. But, she definitely came home with the best souvenir of the trip!
Boulevard de la Revolution, Central Kigali, P.O. Box 7469, Kigali, Rwanda
Good for: Solo
The hotel has beautiful views of the park, and is close to the start point for the mountain gorilla...more
Avenue Kamuzinzi, no. 8, Kigali, Rwanda
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Families
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